Learning Zone

The importance of fleet vehicle maintenance

By Sarah Wilkinson
21 January 2021

Why is fleet maintenance management important?

Reduce downtime, control costs, meet compliance regulations and retain your customers through effective fleet vehicle maintenance management

Any asset that has mechanical components, be it a car, lorry or piece of machinery, needs regular maintenance to enable it to function correctly and increase its lifespan.

An asset that is out of commission costs money. Each day taken to carry out maintenance or servicing of an asset is another day that it fails to make you any revenue. These losses can stack up quite quickly if such downtime runs into unscheduled weeks rather than days, perhaps due to waiting on parts or not having the man-hours available to fulfil tasks. Should it be a similar scenario across the entire fleet and this ‘waste’ can soon have a negative impact on the profitability of a business.

There’s no escaping it, car or vehicle maintenance means unavoidable downtime. The skill lies, however, in minimising this through careful planning and management. Having the technicians and parts in place to efficiently complete tasks and get a vehicle back out on the road is a must. Fleet maintenance management software can be an integral part of managing this downtime and reducing unnecessary time and costs.

Where do you start?

Know your fleet vehicles

The first aspect in running an effective workshop is to know your vehicles – when they need servicing, what is required, the parts needed and to provide an allocation in the planning schedule for downtime, these are all important best practices for preventive maintenance.

An accurate assessment of the costs for both parts and labour can then be made. There is a temptation to opt for cheaper parts, rather than choose the manufacturer recommended ones, to save money. This often proves a false economy in the long run as the part may have a shorter life span and need replacing more frequently. The vehicle manufacturers warranty may become invalid too.

Jobs should be completed within the set time allocation. If a technician exceeds his allocation on jobs and doesn’t complete his daily tasks, it is the responsibility of the workshop manager to investigate and action this. After all, time is money.

In addition, carrying out preventative maintenance on a vehicle with renowned troublesome areas before problems arise can the risk of much longer, more costly downtime later on.

The benefits of creating a fleet maintenance programme

As touched on previously, it’s essential for any workshop to successfully deliver a scheduled, prepared and fully compliant fleet maintenance programme. Such a programme can reduce the risk of additional downtime by having a detailed schedule of jobs to be completed with a time and cost allocation set against each one.

Compliance can be seen as paperwork for the sake of completing paperwork. But it’s often much more than unnecessary work and ‘red tape’ that it is perceived to be. It’s there to ensure safety – for employees and other road users. It incorporates a culture of safety across the workforce, reducing the risk of accidents, and boosting staff morale by being part of a company that cares.

Should the unfortunate occur, and an accident happens, the relevant, completed paperwork needs to be in place; this is to ensure that the regulatory requirements have been met and everything done to mitigate such an accident. Vehicles need to be maintained to the highest of standards to ensure that they are fully roadworthy, reducing the likelihood of an accident through a mechanical or electrical failure.

Modern vehicles have, in effect, an onboard computer that monitors functions and performance. Using telematics, faults can be alerted remotely for the workshop to action, thereby reducing unexpected downtime. The automation of such ad-hoc maintenance tasks takes place within the fleet maintenance management software and alerts created for technicians to action.

The importance of fleet maintenance management software

The ways in which fleet maintenance management software can help an operation improve efficiency is through the incorporation of specific maintenance management modules. These need to incorporate four key areas – reducing costs, minimising downtime, meeting compliance regulations and customer retention.

1. Reducing costs

Quality fleet maintenance management software such as FleetWave can maximise efficiencies and help discover those areas of cost savings that can often be hidden or are too time-consuming to trace through paper-based reporting practices.

Fleet maintenance management software is, in effect, a large database that has many tools and fleet reporting procedures to speed up processes, provide transparency across the business and improve efficiency. Such software integrates easily with other systems and applications including parts suppliers and account management.

The cost-saving benefits of software for maintenance managers are numerous. Add to this the flexibility of a mobile forms app that can collate and update information from the shop floor in real-time. Such capabilities reduce paper-based administrative duties and increases productivity by providing more time to complete tasks.

Fleet maintenance management software can:

  • Monitor vehicles and spot trends in fault finding which can help pre-empt service scheduling.
  • Generate reminders to drivers about allocating vehicle downtime for vehicle maintenance.
  • Vehicle availability transparency for fleet managers to determine availability.
  • Improve inventory management by having full knowledge of stocked parts.
  • Integrate with parts suppliers for ease of ordering, delivery and invoicing.
  • Improves resale value by providing a full-service history.
  • Empower technicians to allow more autonomous working.

a dashboard that shows a speedometer and also has a messaged alerting the driver that the fleet vehicle is due for scheduled maintenance

2. Reducing downtime

Vehicles out of commission are a financial burden to a fleet operation, many companies put the cost at between £1,500 to £4,000 per day! Stood idling, they are not making money for a business but continue to generate costs such as insurance and tax. Similarly, hiring replacement fleet vehicles during downtime can be a costly practice but the alternative is to reduce driver workload during these periods which potentially leads to an even greater financial loss.

There are best practices to keep downtime to a minimum with the simplest being to plan ahead.  A workshop manager can procure the parts needed in advance either manually or automated through a designated supplier. Having a good inventory management programme is key to this in addition to having an awareness of workforce availability. There is little point in planning additional work during periods of employees’ annual leave.

Technician jobs such as completing inspection sheets and carrying out vehicle servicing can be managed and assigned through software. Mobile forms apps can empower technicians by creating a to-do list of jobs that they are able to sign off themselves once completed, allowing the flexibility to manage their own day. Managers can oversee that the work has been carried out remotely without the need to venture into the workshop.

3. Ensuring compliance 

Being recognised as compliant can be a cumbersome task, but the very reason that legal requirements are being acted upon is to ensure that vehicles fit for purpose and safe for employees and other road users. Imagine taking a vehicle out on the road with faulty brakes and the accident that could happen should they fail….

Compliance can be categorised into vehicles, drivers, operations and management with standards set out for each.

All fleet vehicles need to meet certain safety standards before becoming operational which is followed by regular service and maintenance checks. Commercial vehicles can be pulled in and roadside spot checks carried out to check that they are fully compliant. Those found to be in breach of regulations are not only fined but the results go against their Operators Licence which increases the chances of being pulled more frequently for additional spot checks. Continued serious fault finding could lead to the loss of their Operators Licence and the subsequent demise of the business.

Technicians need to have the correct skills and training to carry out compliance maintenance on vehicles. It’s the responsibility of both the workshop and fleet managers to oversee such training needs for the role and ensure that the relevant records are in place. Failure to do so could not only mean that potentially unsafe vehicles are leaving the premises but will also invalidate regulatory requirements, putting both operators and other road users at risk. The DVSA’s Earned recognition scheme provides transparency of procedures to the governing bodies and companies registered with the scheme will not be subject to such roadside checks.

4. Customer retention

Fleet managers have a care of duty when tendering and selecting suppliers. Having a care of duty in place when procuring suppliers enhances the reputation of the business which can go a long way in maintaining contracts. The last thing a customer wants is to be embroiled in a negative news story concerning a supplier that has been trading without being fully compliant. Similarly, end users are more likely to purchase products and services from a company that has a compliant supply chain that cares about the welfare of their employees and customers.

Having a safety culture within your business boosts staff morale too. Employees feel valued by working for a company that prioritises their safety and are prepared to put the necessary processes in place to maintain well-being.

To conclude, dedicated fleet management software that incorporates maintenance management is an essential piece of ‘toolkit’ for any workshop manager that improves efficiency and generates value in terms of real cost savings.

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